Saturday, June 12, 2010


In the Globe and Mail on June 9, 2010 there was an article about making bread - 'to knead or not to knead?'  The baking community seems to be divided on whether no-knead bread with its shortcuts produces a worthy bread.  One baker has compared the no-knead bread a step-up from Wonder Bread.  I beg to differ.   I think no-knead bread is wonderful.   The bread I make is much better than the bread I can buy at the local grocery stores or even the farmer's market.
The artisans of bread making prefer to knead by hand and make a few loaves at a time.  
They would not be using a food processing system with a kneading paddle such as the one I use here when I decide to make three or four loaves at a time and have bread kneaded, risen and baked within three hours.  I do cheat a bit in helping the bread rise by using a tablespoon of dough enhancer.  Some bakers also prefer to measure out the ingredients by weight versus volume as they feel that using volume (eg a cup of flour) is not as precise and this affects the flavour and texture.  I can not see myself weighing out flour on my food scale.  I can only imagine seeing the flour flying, trying to get the flour into the food scale bowl in order to measure the defined weight.   Last night I decided to make a no-knead bread using a can of pale ale.  It took me a few minutes to mix the ingredients, cover the bowl with saran wrap followed by a tea towel.  I have posted this recipe in an earlier blog.  I hauled out my red cast iron pot this morning in preparation as you need to heat the pot and lid in the oven prior to putting the bread dough in the pot.                  

This picture shows the dough in my favorite yellow bowl that I use for bread making.   This is after the first rise.

These two pictures show the dough before the covered pot went into the 425 degree oven and the finished product 42 minutes later.  Since I use a convection oven, the cooking time is much faster.

And the best part of making bread is eating it.  I can never resist a slice of warm bread smeared with peanut butter and jam.

Let's revisit the issue at hand - should we only use traditional methods for making bread?  Is making a bread a science?  The answer is yes as cooking is a science and it is about chemistry.  Is precision required in cooking?  The answer is yes as adding too much of one ingredient can destroy the recipe.  However I feel you can have some flexibility in cooking food and add or subtract specific ingredients according to taste.   You do have to be mindful of having the right proportions in recipes, especially that of making bread - flour, water, sugar, salt and yeast.   Should cooking be enjoyable, involve experimentation and be flexible?  The answer is yes.   If the recipe is so complicated, hard to understand or replicate, then why bother trying to make it?   Perfection is in the eye of the beholder or should I say the taste buds of the beholder.

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